4 Myths I Didn't Need To Believe About My Chronic Illness
In an ideal world, we'd all support our body's miraculous ability to heal itself and develop new cells through our lifestyle choices. Whether though the food we choose, physical activity, the amount of rest we receive, or even the conversations we have, everything would either contribute to our ongoing good health or inhibit our body from being well or healing.
This is even true when it comes to autoimmune disease. Often, when a person is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, medications are prescribed with little to no explanation about the disease and how our lifestyle impacts that condition.
I know this firsthand: 37 years ago, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease causing patchy or complete bodily hair loss. Since then, I have been told my entire life there’s nothing I can do about it. I never really believed that, and always believed that somehow I could figure out what my body needed. I’m thrilled that I have begun to discover just that. By making dietary and lifestyle changes, and after 11 years of not a single hair anywhere on my body, my hair is growing back.
There are 4 myths about alopecia areata that I believe are important to dispel in order to heal and be well:
Myth #1: Drug therapy/injections/creams may help, but there’s nothing else you can do. You just need to let alopecia run its course.
Many people, after being diagnosed, are often confused, angry, or frustrated that there isn’t a clear answer, but we can take actions to support our body in healing. We can make choices around our diet, our physical activity, our relationships, our stress level, the amount of sleep we get, and our connection to the natural world around us. All of these areas either support health or they compromise health. We are not totally helpless.
Myth #2: You are perfectly healthy except for having alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata (including totalis and universalis), is a disease of the autoimmune system. Thankfully it's not fatal. But it is a disease, which manifests itself as hair loss. However, what’s happening on the inside of the body is much more significant. The inflammation and imbalance on the inside can absolutely be altered by the lifestyle and dietary choices that we make.
Myth #3: Stress is the cause of alopecia areata.
The human body is designed to handle and respond to a certain amount of stress, but chronic levels take a toll on the body and over time will actually cause the body to deteriorate and break down, including critical functions needed to be well. Controlling how stress impacts us, both on a mental and physical level, is vitally important when we are working towards healing our body. Stress can hinder the body from healing but is the not the single cause of alopecia.
Myth #4: Alopecia areata is a dermatological issue.
The physical manifestation of alopecia is hair loss, but the disease itself points to a much larger issue than simply treating hair loss. About 70% of our immune system is housed in our digestive tract and alopecia is one of many non-intestinal symptoms associated with a gluten sensitivity. Alopecia and hair loss is directly related to the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and the health of the digestive tract.
Even if there are no apparent digestive issues or digestive symptoms present, if alopecia areata exists, there is a digestive component that needs healing. When we heal our digestion, we have a much stronger ability to heal our whole body and restore all of its proper functions, including growing hair.
Now, after numerous years of research, study, and making continuous changes to my diet and lifestyle, it's doesn't surprise me that my hair is starting to grow back after an 11-year hiatus. After changing my diet, my digestion has healed, my thyroid is healing, and my hair continues to grow. There's a direct correlation between our diet and lifestyle choices and our body’s ability to be healthy, vital and well.